Use of Attics in Literature

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The Phenomenology of Space--Attic Memories and Secrets

Since Gilbert and Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic, critics have assumed that attics house madwomen. But they use that concept as a metaphor for their thesis, that women writers were isolated and treated with approbation. In most literature, attics are dark, dusty, seldom-visited storage areas, like that of the Tulliver house in The Mill on the Floss--a "great attic under the old high-pitched roof," with "worm-eaten floors," "worm-eaten shelves," and "dark rafters festooned with cobwebs"--a place thought to be "weird and ghostly." Attics do not house humans (not even mad ones) they warehouse artifacts that carry personal and familial history--often a history that has been suppressed. And that history is what makes attics interesting.


Washington—Contractors installing ductwork in an attic found a suitcase containing the skeleton of a baby who apparently died more than 20 years ago.

[The police spokesman] said the blue suitcase appeared to be more than 30 years old. The skeleton which was wrapped in cloth, "appears to have been there quite a long time, in excess of 20 years," Eaves said. Police estimated that the baby was 1 or 2 months old at death.

The house was built in 1928 and was occupied by the same family until the mid-1990s. The last of four elderly sisters who lived there died in 1995 at the age of 102, and the house was sold five years ago

Houston Chronicle, Wednesday, February 17, 2001

In Suzanne Berne's A Perfect Arrangement (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Press, 2001), a pragmatic architect says "Attics are wasted space," but the family maid, with far more insight into human beings, responds, as I would: "Not psychologicall...

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... Random House, 1936.

––– Go Down, Moses.

George, Elizabeth. In Pursuit of a Proper Sinner. New York: Bamtam, 1999.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic : The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.

Kesey, Ken. Sometimes a Great Notion. New York: Viking, 1964.

Porter, Katherine Anne. The Collected Stories of Kathering Anne Porter. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, l979.

Shelley, Mary.Frankenstein. Ed. Marilyn Buller.London: William Pickering, 1993.

Singer, Isaac Bashevis. The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ed. Philip van Doren Stern. New York: Paul S. Eriksson, 1964.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray; For Love of the King. London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press, 1993.
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